Top 50 Falcons: No. 19, George Kunz

George Kunz, Atlanta Falcons
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Top 50 Falcons: No. 19, George Kunz
George Kunz, Atlanta Falcons

George Kunz made the Pro Bowl as a rookie offensive lineman with the Falcons. (AP)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 19 is defensive tackle George Kunz.

Years played for Falcons: Drafted second overall in the 1969 NFL Draft behind the infamous O.J. Simpson, George Kunz became an instant staple of the Atlanta Falcons offensive line. The Notre Dame product was a Pro Bowl selection his first season and finished his career with eight Pro Bowl selections over his 11-year career.

Jersey No.: 75

His impact on the team: Falcons coach Norm Van Brocklin was looking to rebuild his offensive line and went with Kunz. It was a great choice for the club as he signed a three-year, $150,000 deal which included his signing bonus. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, got hurt his second year but returned to the Pro Bowl the next three years for the Falcons. Then, after the strike year in 1974 during which the team went 3-11, the Falcons desperately needed a quarterback and Kunz was their biggest asset. He, along with the Falcons’ No. 3 pick (became guard Ken Huff) were sent for the top pick in the NFL Draft. That top pick turned into none other than face of the franchise, quarterback Steve Bartkowski, who helped turn the franchise around. He led them in the right direction, up the standings, capturing the franchise’s first three playoff appearances while taking charge under center. Kunz, meanwhile, finished out his career with three Pro Bowl appearances in Baltimore and retired after the 1980 season.

On playing for Van Brocklin: “The thing I remember most about Norm is he and his wife opening up his home to orphans when they were in their 40’s. There is a good and bad side to everybody, but I think that is a sign of great character and dedication.”

On being the pick behind O.J.: “I was actually clerking in the same courthouse he was in when I was in law school and he was waiting for his (last) trial (in Las Vegas). I tried to go see him but they wouldn’t let me and wrote him a letter but he never returned it.”

On his memories in Atlanta: “It is a great town with a lot of great people. It was great coming to a place where a young man would say ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ to you. The poverty I saw, I wasn’t ready for that but I was really exposed to a lot of diversity and the experience helped make me who I am.”

Where he is now: Kunz, 68, lives in Las Vegas and has been married to Mary Sue for 46 years. He is a lawyer today with a very healthy practice in family law and estate planning as well as doing pro bono work. He also finds time to get away and hunt with some of his former teammates.

The countdown to the Top 50 players in Falcons history runs through the end of the season.

Top 50 Falcons Countdown

50: Chuck Smith
49: Michael Haynes
48: Jonathan Babineaux
47: John Zook
46: Ken Reaves
45: Lynn Cain
44: Justin Blalock
43: Bobby Butler
42: Tim Mazzetti
41: Buddy Curry
40: Scott Case
39: Jeff Merrow
38: Elbert Shelley
37: Matt Bryant
36: Alge Crumpler
35: Michael Turner
34: Ray Buchanan
33: Chris Hinton
32: Terance Mathis
31: Devin Hester
30: Don Smith
29: Greg Brezina
28: Chris Miller
27: John James
26: Bob Whitfield
25: Rolland Lawrence
24: Alfred Jenkins
23: Billy Johnson
22: Chris Chandler
21: Morten Andersen
20: John Abraham
19: George Kunz

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